Swiss techno pioneer Marco Repetto aka La Luna Sotto Il Ponte talks melancholic days, synth explorations and Grauzone legacies.
Marco Repetto, why did you pick the moniker “La Luna Sotto Il Ponte”?
It felt right, as personal as this image is to me. I liked to picture myself sitting on a river and gazing through the ark of a bridge as the clouds move around the moon. That’s where the name “La Luna Sotto Il Ponte” comes from. It captures the melancholy of the times back then, and how I liked to express these feelings in my sounds. Honestly, I had never any plans of releasing this, until Flavio and Walid from INFOLINE asked me to. These tunes were merely experiments to keep my candle burning.
It sounds like you were going through difficult times.
It shows on this recording, yes. Personal crisis, separation from my partner, loneliness. I was really lonely, I felt lost. The music was my island of possibility, and more so an anchor to hold on to. While my son was sleeping in the cradle, I was fiddling with my synths. He liked the synthetic bass tones and would fall asleep to them.
What’s the story of these tracks?
These tracks came together between 1983 and 1989. After Grauzone broke up in 1981, and two crazy years with the experimental band EigerNordWand I moved to Zürich in 1983 and became a part of the underground collective that created the musical “Der Hundeschwindel von Moskau”. Around that time I started experimenting on my own on synths. I was fed up with working with bands in much too smokey rooms.
It’s a sound that treads a middle ground between your new wave productions and early Acid House.
Many of these tunes connected with EBM, I guess that’s another reason why these tracks sound moody. That scene was actually really strong in those days in Bern, with a lot of shows going down at the occupied Reitschule. There was Michael Antener and Ane Hebeisen from the Swamp Terrorists. There was Edy Marconi and Daniel Wihler who later became I Suonatori. Daniel taught me a lot how to work on the synths: he showed me the ropes.
Did you play any of these tracks live at the time?
I remember one gig at Albisgüetli in Zürich in 1984. Edy Marconi and I were playing before Gabi Delgado from DAF. He was DJing, and just like those guys from Chicago he would incorporate a drum machine into his DJ sets. Gabi was a true pioneer, and in many ways! After we played our live set, Gabi walked up to us and congratulated us on our performance. He really liked my music, and told me to get in touch. But like so many things nothing came from it. I also remember that in 1982 we played a show as EigerNordWand at Kino Walche in Zürich together with DAF. Two nights in a row. The second night they just blew us off stage, they were so good. You have to know it was pretty competitive back then.
What about the “Eisbär” 1988 version?
Yeah, this version was merely a jest. I had immense fun doing it as I was playing around with my voice on a vocoder.
It kicks off with a few Acid House-inspired chords, then it leads into the more familiar “Eisbär” melody.
At the time, I didn’t have a 909, nor an 808 or a 303, no classic Chicago House gear altogether. I worked on a Kawai R50 Rhythm Composer, a Yamaha DX 11 synthesizer and a Roland S-330 sampler however. I didn’t know what a 909 was, though I knew the sound and I tried to find that sound. When I actually worked with a 909 for the first time, a whole new world opened up to me.
These tracks have a characteristic sound.
Yeah, I guess it holds it’s own. Most of the tracks assembled on this record I produced on equipment I bought myself from my first Grauzone earnings. A Boss Dr. Rhythm 55 drum machine, a Korg MS 20 synthesizer, a Tascam 4-Track-recorder. I also played a guitar and an electric bass guitar, a friend gifted me.
It feels significant that your future work as a techno producer is based on the first money you made with Grauzone.
You must know, I was not even aware that “Eisbär” was such a hit. Someone had to tell me: “Hey, Marco, you guys are in the Hitparade!” A cheque flew in, my split was 16,000 Swiss francs. It was the first time I ever got money from music. And also one of the few times I ever got money from a Grauzone recording.
Interview: Bjørn Schaeffner